[Original Novel] Down in the Steam Tunnels, Part 8


Previous parts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

My feeling that I had not misjudged this man but was right to condemn him from the start only intensified as I read subsequent entries. “The persecution continues. Not a year goes by that I am not, at least four or five times, called before the board for review. My publications put under the microscope for any sign of heretical thought.

Most recently it was strongly implied if not stated outright that, should I wish to continue here, I must choose some new avenue of scientific inquiry other than eugenics. My tenure is all that prevents my swift disposal. Very well, then. I can devise ways to persist in this field without arousing anger. A rose by any other name, as it were.

Albert has proposed characterizing our biometric study as an investigation of posture. The board approved, and I feel hopeful that by subterfuge I may continue in my vital work without the usual suspects throwing a wrench into the gears.

In some decades, as the quality of the average mind degrades, it might be up to me and just a few others still toiling tirelessly in our labs, to find some miracle cure. Some silver bullet, with which to undo the accumulated damage to the quality of our stock by these so called critical theorists.

May God save us if we fail. I have read an interview in which the venerable Albert Einstein opines that if world war three is fought with nuclear weapons, world war four will be fought with sticks and rocks. Forget the nuclear weapons, though.

By the time the next world war occurs, nobody will remember how to make them, nor how to maintain the arsenal we’ll have built up before then. We’ll fight that war with sticks and rocks simply because any technology beyond that will exceed our understanding.

We will be as the Africans were before colonialists ever arrived on their shores, having never in all the millennia up until then so much as invented the wheel, indoor plumbing, or oceangoing vessels more complex than a raft.

The sociologist’s contention that the state of Africa today owes to the rapacious interference of Europeans seems to imply that we possessed time machines with which to sabotage early African development.

And who is it that sold us the slaves? Were they not Africans, who were already busy enslaving one another long before we arrived? Did we truly invent slavery, or was it standard practice in the world at the time, and for much of human history?

We certainly invented abolitionism though, and have done vastly more to atone for and destroy slavery around the world than any society before or since.”

Despite this guy’s insistence that he had no affinity for the Nazis, he sure as hell sounded like one. Every conceivable attempted justification for the worst excesses of colonialism was on full display here. I could only be glad he was dead, and that men like him are for the most part extinct. However carefully he argued his views, the underlying attitudes made my skin crawl.

It is a tragically short leap from this sort of thinking to forced sterilizations, mass graves, and industrialized crematoria. A road paved with good intentions, blindly traveled by machine men, with machine minds and machine hearts, if any. Men who dutifully march towards whatever conclusion their own cold, calculating reason arrives at…however monstrous.

I turned the page only to find a faded, worn booklet tucked in there. Perhaps as a makeshift bookmark? “Manual for the correct operation and maintenance of your new Beltone Harmony™ vacuum tube hearing aid”. My blood ran cold for a moment, though I couldn’t say why.

I looked up in time to see a slide that was not a match for any of the photos I’d yet seen. A young boy with a bandaged head, looking bruised and malnourished, lay restrained to an operating table. The long, thin wires trailed as usual from the machine to pins in his spine. But in this photo, something new was discernible in the corner of the room.

Something faint. Ghostly. Malformed. I felt a tightness in my chest the moment I recognized it, and recalled the professor’s exposition on the train. “Unless they create, or hijack, biological vessels.” As I feared, with each new slide, the apparition drew closer to the boy. But then, Zach arrived at the end of the drum.

“Bummer. Kinda wanted to see what happened” Zach muttered, as if reading my mind. Thought that was really an understatement. What had William gotten up to down here? Swept under the carpet by the administration, an unwanted embarrassment to the university.

“Ah! Here we go.” The professor, who’d been quietly searching through a file cabinet while I read the notebooks, handed me a brittle manilla envelope. Inside, the prize I’d sought from the beginning. What appeared to be the remaining photographs, including the anomalous ones I’d seen slides of just now.

One of them depicted William himself. Slouched over, one of his legs apparently deformed. A large, clunky device I figured for the ‘Beltone’ hearing aid strapped to his waist, twisted cable running from the box on his hip up to an earpiece.

I smirked, recollecting his criticism of “degenerates” who “sow tactical confusion to conceal their own shortcomings”. Physician, heal thyself. It always seems to be the damaged and insecure who try to elevate themselves by denigrating others. Often concocting disturbingly elaborate worldviews around those ideas in the process.

I continued to the next journal entry, hoping for clues that would put everything else into perspective. “Fools. Would that I could wring their necks. My new office is little more than a furnished utility closet. I know this is a punishment, however they deny it. They are ashamed of me. But, I am also ashamed of them.

I can see the decay in everything. Like a train wreck in slow motion. As the years pass, attention spans growing shorter. Interests shifting from the high minded and technical, to the prurient, sensationalist and slapstick.”

I fiddled with the light widget on my phone to assist in reading, but accidentally opened flappy bird. Once the light came on, I was also able to make out strange illustrations. “Figure 12b” depicted a series of skulls, labelled “Asiatic, Europid, Mongoloid, Negroid, Aboriginal”. I grimaced.

Of course, their shapes appeared markedly different. Because of the unfortunate preconceptions of the pitiful man who’d drawn this. To supply him with a private office, even in the steam tunnels, was an act of charity. I’d have invited him to continue his work from within a dumpster.

“One of the unforeseen benefits of operating on the fringes of academia is that you meet all manner of interesting figures. Radicals, most of them somewhat unhinged. But my dear Albert, who has stood by me faithfully even as my career goes up in flames, recently brought my attention to the work of one Wilhelm Reich.

His story is not dissimilar to mine. Destroyed by the prevailing ideological mobsters for espousing unwanted ideas. It is his frankly intriguing opinion that matter does not create mind, but the inverse.

Which is to say that life did not self-organize by Darwin’s process, at least not exclusively. But instead, that there is a fundamental life force which organizes matter into living configurations wherever it is present in sufficient concentrations. He calls this substance Orgone. From ‘Organism’, and ‘Organization’.

Though the administration feels this is so much hogwash, they’ve encouraged me to investigate it and even provided me with more funding than I requested. Perhaps pushing me in this direction simply so that I will abandon eugenic research.

My desperate hope is that there is yet some salvation to be discovered in the hidden frontier of alternative science. Some way to arrest the deterioration of humanity, however advanced it may be by then, in a single fell swoop.”

So he’d been suckered into the world of smoke, mirrors, and thinly disguised pseudoscientific dead-ends that Professor Travigan also inhabits. Not the dumpster I prescribed, but an effective way to redirect his energies towards some fruitless endeavor. At least this way, his research couldn’t hurt anybody. Or so I thought.

Stay Tuned for Part 9!

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